Director: Akshat Verma
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Oberoi, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Deepak Dobriyal, Vijay Raaz, Isha Talwar
Akshat Verma’s Kaalakaandi brings to the fore three contemporary Bombay stories that run parallel to each other. Not just is the film genuinely humorous (without falling prey to the pitfalls of slapstick cliché), it offers a decent fare in the drama department as well. That drama, which sometimes comes off as overdone, has enough moments of poignancy to keep the film at an impressive level.
Kaalakaandi starts off strong from the word go. Saif Ali Khan’s character Rileen is in conversation with a doctor who informs him that he has stomach cancer; what’s worse is that the disease is in an advanced stage. These initial minutes are infused with generous doses of humour and pathos. Rileen is first in denial. He attempts to reason with the physician: how can someone who hasn’t smoked a cigarette in his life, not eaten red meat, etc. be so sick? He does admit to having eaten a hash brownie once before, though. I laughed quite a bit at this doctor-patient exchange, and was taken in by how someone in Rileen’s position would react to such tragic news.
Saif displays the required range of emotions associated with such an encounter rather deftly. After some advice about getting his affairs in order, Rileen leaves for home. His brother, Angad, is on the verge of getting married. The house is decked to the rafters, with the shaadi spirit pervading the place. The seemingly strait-laced Rileen, who has but a few months left, is ready to experiment, to try the things he has rejected for so long. While the party rages on, he asks his cousin for some drugs, determined to feel something other than despair. Initially reluctant, the cousin finally offers him LSD. Rileen pops the red star in his mouth and heads off to take Angad for an overdue haircut. Angad has just received a call from a former flame, and is unable to think straight.
Meanwhile, in another part of the city, two small-time thugs in Vijay Raaz and Deepak Dobriyal, discuss their future plans in between running errands for their mafia boss. Their cuss-filled back-and-forth peppered with enough ma aur behen ki gaali is especially entertaining. Dobriyal convinces Raaz of a sure shot way of duping the boss. Raaz has had it with menial jobs and wants to rise above his circumstance. The risky plan involves guns, a dangerous marksman, a staged shooting, and lots of treachery.
The third story involves Sobhita Dhulipala and Kunaal Roy Kapur. The former is all set to go abroad for a PhD programme, and her partner (Kapur) is anxious about losing her forever. On the night of her departure, the two of them meet a friend at a bar. Just as they are about to say their goodbyes, the Mumbai Police conducts a narcotics raid on the swanky premises. No one is permitted to leave without a mandatory visit to the thana. Frantic about missing her flight, Sobhita concocts an elaborate escape strategy. But on their car-ride back home, they get into a sticky situation.
Each tale in Kaalakaandi, which switches seamlessly back and forth from one narrative to the other, is more or less about coming to terms with one’s situation. This is seen in many forms: the acceptance of a terminal illness, the need to rise above circumstance, the resolution of a complex moral dilemma. If the film’s humour and pathos were to be pitted against one another, it is the former that comes up trumps. Saif Ali Khan tripping away on LSD with a sex worker in tow (and being chased by a hapless cop), is one of the uproarious highlights of Kaalakaandi.
Vijay Raaz and Deepak Dobriyal showering a volley of choice abuse at each other during a game of cards is memorable too. The drama aspect of the film isn’t bad by any stretch (with some parts being deeply poignant), but it tends to feel slightly overdone every now and then. One can argue that Kunaal Roy Kapur’s great comic timing isn’t used to good enough effect in the narrative. One can always fault the film for minor flaws here and there. But one cannot deny that Kaalakaandi remains a thoroughly entertaining creation.